Three Cups Chicken (三杯雞) is a delicious dish with a brilliant name

I sincerely think that we should give the creator of three cups of chicken a big applause! Or maybe, an award for coming out such a brilliant name for a simple dish. Then again, that is not possible as the origin of this dish is very much a folklore except it is from Taiwan.

The name, 3 cups chicken

For those who are not too sure what a three cups chicken is, it is a famous Taiwanese dish that you can order from any Taiwanese restaurant or even make it yourself with a few simple ingredients. All you need is chicken, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and topped with Thai basil leaves. Hence the name 3 cups is from each cup of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil being used in making this dish.

My first three cups chicken experience

I have to say, I do not know much about Taiwanese cuisine. Most of the Taiwanese foods that I knew were night market snacks. Sometimes you need some locals or someone that lives in Taiwan for years to know some of the Taiwanese hidden gem cuisine. Lucky for me, my colleague used to study in Taiwan. And I was fortunate enough to travel with him to Taiwan for business. After all the hectic business schedule, we managed to spare some time to try some local authentic Taiwanese cuisine at night. I remembered we ordered a lot of local dishes that not normally available in Malaysia and one dish that stood out the most for me, is none-other than three cups chicken.

A simple and delicious recipe you can make at home

Three cups chicken is a simple dish to cook. You can easily find all the ingredients here in Malaysia. Chicken, ginger, garlic, and Thai basil leaf are all very common ingredients. Then you have soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and sesame oil. These are all everyday things that a functional kitchen would have. The rest is just a simple cooking skill.

Wait~ isn’t that mint chicken (薄荷雞)?

Erm~ well, they are sort of the same. Ok, hear me out. If you have tried stir-fried mint chicken in Malaysia, you will definitely feel like these 2 dishes are pretty much similar. The similarity comes from the Thai basil leaf AKA 九層塔 (Jiu Ceng Ta) as both dishes ask for it.  Thai basil leaf has a very strong and significant flavour and it could stand out a little bit too much in both dishes.

The major difference is the use of sesame oil and wine in three cups chicken which is not commonly used in mint chicken. Also, Malaysian mint chicken is usually cooked with oyster sauce which could not be found in three cups chicken.

But then, you might say, Thai basil isn’t really a mint! Well, for some reason we Malaysian named our dish mint chicken (薄荷雞) but we are actually using Thai basil leaf. To be fair, Thai basil leaf is a member of the mint family, so in some way we are right?

Try it!

I think that covers everything. If you are here for the recipe, we have it prepared below for your reference. It is super easy and only takes maybe half an hour of your life. Pretty great trade for a decent dish of three cups chicken if I am being honest 😉 .

Three cups Chicken (三杯雞)

Chicken slowly cooked with sesame oil, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and topped with Thai basil leaves.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, taiwanese
Servings 2 portions


  • Wok (or frying pan)


  • 1/2 Chicken (cut into big pieces)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 2 inches Ginger (peeled and sliced)
  • 5 clove Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaf (九層塔)


  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 cup Water



  • Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Cut it into slightly big size pieces.
  • For the sauce, combine 1tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of darl soy sauce, and 2 tsp of shaoxing wine.


  • Heat 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a wok on medium heat. Stir fry garlic and ginger until fragrant.
  • Add the chicken in. Stir fry it for about a minute.
  • Add the sauce in and follow by half cup of water. Give it a few toss to mix them well then turn the heat to medium high for stir frying.
  • Continue to stir fry it until the chicken is cooked. The sauce will reduce to half as well.
  • Drop the Thai basil leaves in. Stir fry a little bit more and your three cups chicken is ready!

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